Glowing tribute to fallen Mwinyi

TANZANIA: PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan, in a very sombre mood, announced the death of Ali Hassan Mwinyi, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, in the early evening of Thursday, February 29, 2024, at the ripe old age of ninety-eight years.

The late President Mwinyi had also served as President of Zanzibar, a partner State in the Union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar.

One ancient Roman poet, Quintus Horatius Flaccus, who lived before Christ (BC), penned the following lines in one of his poems: “Pale Death kicks his way equally into the cottages of the poor and the castles of kings.” Whave no choice but to say, “Kwa heri, Buriani Mzee Rukhsa.”

As another Roman satirist of the same period named Petronius Arbiter said of another dead person, “he has gone to join the majority,” I would similarly say that the late President Mwinyi “has gone to join the majority.” May his soul rest in eternal peace.

I had the privilege of working closely with the late President Ali Hassan Mwinyi in two different capacities.

The first was when he appointed me to be a member of a threeman National Planning Commission, which he established in 1989.

Prior to that, the Planning docket was under the Ministry of Finance and Planning. In that capacity, we, as planning commissioners, would regularly sit together with the President in a small room next to his office in State House to carry out our assigned responsibilities.

That is when I noticed his unique leadership quality of carefully listening to advice given to him and taking action on such advice in making his decisions. This is known as “participatory leadership in decision-making” or “uongozi wa pamoja” in Kiswahili.

The next occasion was when he appointed me a member of the Nyalali Commission in February 1991, which was tasked to obtain the people’s views and opinions on whether our country should abandon the “oneparty” political system and adopt the multi-party system and make appropriate recommendations. Our commission did the needful and presented its final report to President Mwinyi in December of the same year, 1991.

An outstanding feature of our findings was the very large majority of respondents who rejected the proposal to change the political system to the multi-party system. 80 per cent of all our respondents said “no” to such change, and only 20 per cent responded in favour of that change.

Despite these results, the commission unanimously recommended in its final report that the change to multiparty politics should still be effected. President Mwinyi viewed our recommendation as a challenge and directed us to go to Butiama to seek the views of Mwalimu Nyerere on the matter, which we promptly did.

A small delegation, which included me, was selected to travel to Butiama for that purpose. After patiently listening to our narrative of the events, Nyerere’s response was clear and unambiguous.

He said, “If you arrogantly ignore the voice of the 20 per cent minority, that minority will continue their struggle, and they will surely be joined by many other supporters of this change, and most probably indulge in actions that will amount to a breach of peace.

We must avoid this.” We reported back to President Mwinyi, and when the recommendation for this major change was submitted to the relevant CCM decisionmaking organs, it was unanimously accepted and approved.

Mzee Pius Msekwa held various posts in the country, including serving as Speaker of Parliament and CCM Vice National Chairman (Mainland).

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